Friday, September 28, 2012


This film sat on a shelf for more than a year before Dimension Films decided to finally dust it off and get it projected in theaters. Helmed by on/off director Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger), and featuring a great cast consisting of Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, Christian Slater, LL Cool J, Clifton Collins, Jr., Patricia Velasquez, Will Kemp, Eion Bailey, Val Kilmer and many talented crew members behind-the-scenes, it was shocking to think that they had absolutely no faith in this product. It was released in theaters in early summer 2005 and it disappeared pretty damned quick. There was barely any marketing in print or on TV, plus theatrical trailers were a rare thing to see amidst all the big budget summer blockbuster ads.

So here we are with the recent DVD release. I thought it looked good when I saw trailers for it back in 2004, so I was going to see it regardless. After watching it I can't see what the people at Dimension Films were thinking when they shelved it. I'd go as far to say that it's actually kind of a decent movie! Entertaining even. Suspenseful and fun!
A group of hopeful FBI profilers are sent to an isolated training facility on Roanoke Island to take part in an exercise that will test their skills to the max. Once there it seems that there is a serial killer that goes by the moniker 'The Puppetmaster' on the island as well, and he/she has set a series of lethal traps that coincide with each profiler's weaknesses. The Puppetmaster is profiling them, which means the killer is one of them.

The film is exceptionally well made, and that combined with the superior acting on display during the films entire running length makes for one hell of a cool flick. It also helps that the traps used to take out each of the profilers are creative and extremely graphic. Sure some of them are ridiculous (the liquid nitrogen) and far fetched (the gun), but it's all in the name of a good old fashioned popcorn thriller.
Director Renny Harlin seemed to have been trying to get back to his music video roots with this one. There are lots of quick cuts, flashy shots and sweet lighting effects galore. I give kudos to the cinematographer for making this a visually arresting little film. Plus Harlin manages to squeeze every last ounce of character out of his many leads.

Sure there are some problems, like the finale. It seems to be going in one direction, screeches to a halt, then goes in another direction, stops again and completely throws out the first version like it never happened. It's a little confusing, but I didn't let it bother me. I had a good time watching it up until that point, but that little pet peeve wasn't enough to throw me off. It's also a mite predictable. I could tell when someone was going to be offed because it was pretty much telegraphed to us a good 30 seconds before it happened. Still, I enjoyed myself through the bad parts.
One more thing that shocked me is that this film is GORY!!!! I mean freakishly nasty. Some of the deaths are nothing to write home about, but a good handful of them are flat out disgusting. I'm not going to spill the beans, but a couple of them made my jaw drop due to how gratuitous and in-your-face they were.

All in all this is a very watchable thriller that features a great ensemble cast, shocks galore and plenty of entertainment value to go around. It's a diamond in the rough amidst all the other cookie cutter murder mysteries out there. You'll be hard pressed to figure out who the killer is before they reveal it to you. I was stumped and that's a good thing.

4 out of 5

*written 2/16/04

No comments:

Post a Comment